Migraines, Cancer, Lent and All of Us

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday but thanks to icy roads, we didn’t have a service. My job was going to be imposing ashes on people as they exited the building and to say to them, “From ashes you came and ashes you will return.” Rich Villodas says, “Ash Wednesday is the annual reminder that we are far more weak, frail, broken and sinful than we think. It’s also the reminder that God is far more gracious, merciful, present and loving than we can believe.” I really love that service, because I need both of those reminders. 

None of that happened. Michigan weather don’t remind me how nice you are in the summer. I am not your friend today.

While it was snowing and icing yesterday afternoon, I was recording The Pastor’s Table podcast with Dr. Mark Quanstrom and Rev Tara Beth Leach. We talked about migraines in ministry (podcast #1) and living with someone dying of cancer (podcast #2). Ironically (maybe I should write “Typically”), I had a fairly significant migraine as we were recording. Talking about migraines while experiencing a migraine is a weird thing to do. (FYI… the podcast will be posted on March 6).

Immediately following the podcast interview, I need to move things around in Lisa’s room to accommodate a sleeper sofa so Karla (or whomever might be spending the night with Lisa) would be able to be in the room and assist her. Lisa’s legs and ankles are swollen. Karla told me she can feel the tumors on Lisa’s body growing. Lisa can barely hold food down. Last night for the first time, she started wearing the oxygen tube thing-a-ma-bob that goes around one’s nose. Karla and I prayed with her because it’s scary when you can’t breathe. The disease is progressing. Oh how I hate cancer.

Migraines and cancer on Ash Wednesday– what better reminder that we are weak, frail and broken? So often, we try to hide our ailments or brokenness or sinfulness. We paste on a smile and tell the person asking, “How are you doing?” “Fine, I’m fine.” But we aren’t fine. Migraines and cancer reveal we aren’t fine. Our world is broken. It’s full of frailties. Mine is migraines. Lisa’s is cancer. Your bug-a-boo is something else. All of us are sinners in need of a Savior. 

This Lenten Season that we have now entered is a call to look at ourselves and see that we need help. There are mountains too high for us to climb (read: cancer, migraines, sinfulness). There are valley’s too deep and wide (read: depression, loneliness, brokenness). There are circumstances that we can’t fix. Diseases we can’t cure. Sins we can’t absolve. We need a Savior. We desperately need a Savior. 

Lent is generally a time when we give up something (i.e. chocolate, coffee, social media). So that when fasting, we remember those things missed and we are likewise reminded of our need for a Savior. It’s a good 40-day practice. But can I also urge you to look in a mirror. Take a good long look. See yourself for who you really are. What you will see is that you are not fine, you need a Savior. We all do. 

Turn to Him. Seek His face. Confess your sins. Admit your frailties. There’s a Savior who is far more gracious, merciful, present and loving than we could ever believe.